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South African Exiled Artists Excel at Home

Albert Adams | Untitled (Four Figures with Pitchforks) | charcoal and chalk on paper | 101 x 68.5 cm | Image: Repro Pictures

Aspire Art Auctions’ selection of critically engaged, top quality fine art was met with enthusiasm at its inaugural Cape Town sale on 27 March 2017 at the Avenue, V&A Waterfront.

This commitment to the growth of the South African market saw international records broken in long-awaited and well-received recognition of exiled South African artists, too frequently underrated and under-represented. This is in addition to strong results for the work of blue-chip artists, such as JH Pierneef’s A view across Fisherman’s Cove, Seychelles, which fetched R4,547,200 and his Vrystaat Reën at R2,046,240; Edoardo Villa’s Vertical Composition at R1,818,880; and two of William Kentridge’s early drawings, Grande Jeté at R2,273,600 and Room Service at R2,046,240. An important example of Louis Maqhubela’s early conté crayon drawings of the mid-1960s, the politically motivated work, Exiled King, sold for R341,040 – more than three times his previous record. As a young student in Soweto, Maqhubela joined Durant Sihlali’s artist’s group and enrolled in classes at the Polly Street Art Centre. However, in 1959, the year he matriculated, the apartheid government disallowed black students from ‘white’ universities.

Having enjoyed critical and commercial success despite the challenges of the time, Maqhubela eventually settled in the UK primarily for political reasons, furthering his studies at Goldsmiths College in 1984–1985, and the Slade School of Art between 1985 and 1988. Albert Adams’ Untitled (Four Figures with Pitchforks), his first appearance at auction, sold for R136,416 at three times the low estimate. This important work will be featured in the upcoming exhibition to honour the artist at the Rupert Museum, curated by Marilyn Martin, the former Director of the Iziko South African National Gallery. Martin notes that the drawing “ …reveals the instinctive expressionism, charged with deep social awareness and commitment, which would characterise his work throughout his life”. Denied access to Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, on the basis of race, Adams received scholarships and grants which enabled him to study at top universities in London, Munich and Salzburg. He returned to Cape Town where he exhibited widely and to critical acclaim and represented South Africa internationally, but in 1960 he settled in London.

Louis Maqhubela | Exiled King | conté on paper | 130.5 x 95 cm | Image: Repro Pictures

Emma Bedford, current Director and Senior Specialist at Aspire Art Auctions and for many years Curator at the South African National Gallery, met both Maqhubela and Adams in London in the 1990s, amongst several other artists in exile, with a view to curating an exhibition on the subject. So it was particularly heartwarming to receive Maqhubela’s response to the sale and the news that he would benefit from Aspire’s initiation of Artist Resale Rights: “your e-mail was like a whisper from the ‘Old Ones’ – a grand affirmation of ethical market practice, goodwill and generosity that really made my day”.

As the first auction house in South African history to pay living, South African artists royalties on the resale of their works of art, an impressive 40 living artists in the Inaugural Cape Auction are eligible for payments – a substantial increase from the 16 living artists who benefitted from Aspire’s Inaugural Auction, held in Johannesburg in October 2016. Young contemporary artists set to receive Artist’s Resale Rights payments include Mohau Modisakeng, who will represent South Africa at the Venice Biennale 2017; Modisakeng’s Ditaola XV achieved a record of R204,624. Another major contemporary artist, Moshekwa Langa, doubled his previous record when his mixed media composition, she thought of him often, sold for R102,312. In the run up to Aspire Art Auctions’ upcoming Johannesburg Auction, Aspire’s Johannesburg office, led by Mary-Jane Darroll and Ruarc Peffers, both Senior Specialists and Directors, will hold its first Valuation Day in which the public is encouraged to bring works of art in for a free valuation. 

Upcoming Valuation Day in Johannesburg

Friday 21 April 2017 | Contact 011 243 5243 to make an appointment

Aspire Art Auctions’ specialists will offer gratis and obligation-free valuations at the Johannesburg offices

For further queries, or for gratis and obligation-free valuations, please contact:

Ruarc Peffers | | +27 84 444 8004

Upcoming Winter Auction

17 July I The Park on 7 | Hyde Park Corner | Johannesburg

Consignments Close 19 May 2017


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